An interesting piece from Boak & Bailey today, in which they dip their toes in the potentially turbulent waters of the Bass debate (beware crocodiles!). I mention it here in hope of generating further discussion, preferably a little less heated than what we had a couple of weeks ago on another part of this forum.

I've no particular axe to grind here, in fact my tendencies are more towards the blunting of axes (as my Peace & Love posts of 25 & 26 April illustrate (#3327 & #3337)).

  • I have some sympathy for those who wanted to celebrate Draught Bass with National Bass Day (on Easter Saturday, 11 April this year - sadly cancelled of course), but little time for those who say that Roger Protz should be sacked and kicked out of Camra for supporting it.
  • There's a lot to be said for the view that modern, hazy IPAs made with New World hops are so much more interesting than Boring Brown Beer. (I hate the use of the term BBB, but you all know what I mean so I use it in this instance.)
  • Also a lot to agree with in the notion that the vast majority of beer drinkers in the UK - make that Real Ale drinkers - drink BBBs of one sort or another with apparent pleasure, and that a national day celebrating a beer that could be drunk with pleasure by a majority would be on the whole A Good Thing.
  • Now B&B's little article also throws up the notion that Draught Bass has varied considerably over the years, so that those who deprecate National Bass Day on the grounds that the beer is an insipid shadow of its former self, which is all the fault of InBev, Molson Coors and Marstons (apportion blame according to your own prejudices and/or information), while they may have a point, could equally find themselves arguing for the wrong corner if looking back to what Bass was like not 40 but 80 or 120 years) ago.
  • In particular, it appears that Draught Bass used to be weaker than it is today (3.9% in 1977 compared with 4.4% since 1979), while the bottled version was 6% in 1961. Then there's the maltose syrup (who knew?); the changing hop bill (apparently Golding, Fuggles, Progress, Challenger, Styrian Golding, Hercules and Admiral today; Northdown and Challenger 30 years ago); the loss of the Burton Union system; and so much more, probably.

My own view? Beers change. It happens every week and it's considered to be a good thing, because brewers try different things, add new ingredients, tweek recipes - and then give the beer a new name. When a well-known beer changes it's a bad thing, because the accountants have taken over the brewery. People change, and their tastes change, and their memories of what beers used to taste like when they were young tend to fade. Bass has undoubtedly changed, and almost certainly not for the better. If it's well kept it can be a decent drink, but there are lots of better beers of its type, never mind better beers of different types. Is it worth celebrating? I can understand why it sticks in the craw to celebrate a beer that is brewed by a brewery that attracts a lot of opprobium; that is owned by a multinational that cares not two hoots for said beer; that is drunk by mainstream drinkers who probably wouldn't care whether it was promoted or not. But perhaps having a National Day for just one beer provides a focus for (some) licensees and (some) drinkers, with an opportunity to debate the quality of the beer that lasts longer than the day itself (as the B&B article shows), and, who knows, might even stir up a bit of interest from those far and distant accountants, so on the whole: yes.